Friday, August 18, 2006


Friday Off-Topic: August 18: Adventures in Search, and What Will The Astrologers Do Now?!

On August 9th, the New York Times published an article called "A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher 4417749". That article alerted the web media that AOL had accidentally released search information on almost 660,000 of its customers to a public website-- apparently a bad move by workers hoping to help academic researchers with some project or other. Since then, writers and technically fiddly types have had a field day copying, sorting, and sifting the data, trying to see what patterns emerge from the search data. What searches were most popular? How much does what you search about give away about your identity? What, in short, is America looking for?

As it turns out, mostly for dirty pictures. But we at eMvoy could have told you that: we have, after all, been in the search business for quite some time. We can also tell you this: Britney Spears is no longer the search-engine superstar she once was. We're not sure why.

Moving on from the search for... stuff, to the more ennobling search for new information about our solar system, the International Astronomical Union met in Prague this week to discuss the state of its science. One of the topics on its slate was how to define a planet, seeing as how recently there have been arguments about whether or not Pluto should be counted as one. They've come to a provisional agreement on that definition: a planet is a spherical body that does not orbit around another larger body (like our moon; that's a satellite), but has its own independent orbit around a star.

If adopted, this definition would raise the number of planets in our solar system to twelve. Pluto's "moon" Charon, a Pluto-like object technically called 2003UB313 but nicknamed "Xena", and the large asteroid Ceres (between Mars and Jupiter) would be added to the total, and there would suddenly be hundreds of other candidates available.

Forbes notes the effect this new definition (if adopted) will have on textbook publishers, model makers, and poster printers. The Guardian tries out a few new mnemonics for remembering all the names. But we want to know: what about the astrologers? How on Earth will this affect the business of casting horoscopes, if all of a sudden we've got three new planets to consider?

If you're in India and you follow Vedic Astrology, the answer is: not at all. If you're worried about your newspaper horoscope, the answer is... we're not sure. Some astrologers seem to shrug it off, saying that the new planets will have been influencing events all this time anyway, so it's just a matter of studying the planets movements in the past to understand their influences.

Personally, we think the astrologers should be hanging their heads for not having predicted this change ahead of time.

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